The most difficult part about setting your priorities can be deciding what is really important to you. I’m not talking about making easy choices, i.e. “should I write this morning, or browse twitter?” Granted, I still may not even be able to make that choice some days, but I know the clear choice (for me) is to write.
My friends, the difficult part is to choose between the good parts of life. The actions, opportunities, and relationships which are healthy and serve our true selves. When you begin to choose how to prioritize those aspects, is when life gets really confusing. But press on! Making these tough choices means you are moving closer to doing work that matters.
What is Good?
While we could spend all day discussing the spiritual and moral implications of the question (I have a great story to illustrate it), here are several things I consider “good” in my life:
- Spending time with family & friends
- Running & Exercising
What about the inevitable good but tough choices that come up? When we’re sitting down to work on our newest blog post, podcast, or course offering, and a friend calls and says “Want to go mountain biking?” Both are good things, right?
Calmly thank your friend, decline, and ask if he would like to go later, or another time. Take a deep breath, they’ll understand. Your friend is being a good friend, but right now he’s unknowingly working for the Resistance, trying to rip you away from your work. Make the choice, and do the work.
For me, I can be a people-pleaser. I thrive on the compliments and good graces of other people. On the Enneagram, I’m a 3 (Performer-Achiever). Many of the times I choose something which is still good, but not what’s needed; it is because I want to make other people happy, or not deal with their frustration.
How can we create the space to do meaningful work, and have time for other good things? Here are 3 rules to follow:
Give yourself time to do your work by scheduling it in to your day. I work on my site for 30-60 minutes each day, and I have found giving myself a healthy time frame to work in really helps. The days where I sit down and think, “Well, let’s see what happens” are not as productive as knowing I have 30 minutes to produce. You can also schedule in batches, for instance write 3-4 days a week, then spend 1-2 on maintenance, marketing, etc.
Communicate Your Schedule
Once you’ve created those healthy boundaries for your work, it’s time to communicate them. Create a shared calendar on Google, and have your main events listed. I don’t have mine down to minutiae, but people can see when I’m at work, writing, spending time with others. Family, co-workers, and friends can view and see I’m busy. This helps cut down on how often you’ll have to say “No, I need to write”. You’ll probably encounter some resistance early on, because it’s hard to grasp why a person would sacrifice sleep or parties to sit at a desk and pour everything out. But it’s ok, they’ll understand (or they’ll move on).
Start small. Write for 30 minutes a day, 2-3 days a week, about anything. Establish a rhythm of work. Don’t pile so many expectations on yourself that you’ll burn out after a couple weeks. If after a couple of weeks you find yourself consistently leaving your desk with more to give, add a day. Create draft posts with outlines so you can remember what was percolating in your mind. Give yourself goals, say 500 words a day, or 2000 words per week. Try the SMART goal system. Have a deadline for your bigger projects, and break them down in to little daily tasks. Again, start small!
Friends, this is one of the most difficult types of Resistance we will encounter. There is nothing wrong with going to dinner with friends, exercising, and reading. They are all good things! What we have to be on the lookout for is when these good things consistently get in the way of our great work, which we have been called to do.
Question: How have you seen your creative work fall by the wayside for other good activities and actions? How have you combated these things and broken free to do your work?
Everything I Know
I write about developing your best self, regularly delivered on Friday